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Council Highlights - July 13, 2009 Meeting

Council Highlights
July 13, 2009 Meeting

Park Has “Gone To The Dogs”
After much public consultation and consideration as well as expressed commitment by many local dog owners, Council approved a site and accompanying policy for a one year pilot Off Leash Dog Area to allow dog owners to exercise and socialize their pets. The area, a fenced 3/4 hectare site, is located in Ward 4 on Town-owned open space lands south of Tower Hill Road and just west of Yonge Street. Council originally approved the pilot project at its September 22, 2008 meeting and, since that time, staff have worked with local community groups such as the Richmond Hill K9 Klub for site selection and formulation of a policy to regulate the area. The Richmond Hill K9 Klub have also committed to assist in the ongoing operation and maintenance of the facility to help minimize operational costs. The area will be contained by a 1.5 m tall chain link fence with a separate small dog area and a double-gated entry and exit area. The area is also located on the Town’s trail system to maximize its accessibility and it was determined that the site will not impact any designated sensitive environmental areas. The area is expected to be open by the end of this year. At the conclusion of the one year pilot project, staff will report back regarding the operational and enforcement costs associated with the Off Leash Dog Area and make recommendations regarding the continued operation of the facility and, if successful, possibly expand the program in the future. For more information, contact Tracey Steele, Manager of Parks Planning & Natural Heritage, at (905) 771-2476 (from Committee of the Whole Meeting held on Monday, July 6, 2009; Staff Report SRPRC.09.49, Agenda Item No. 11).

New Urban Structure Approved For Official Plan
As a framework for directing future growth and determining land use for the Town’s new Official Plan, Council approved the Recommended Urban Structure. This Urban Structure helps visualize the physical make-up of the Town over the long-term planning horizon. As planning for growth over the next 25 years requires a good understanding of what exists today and a clear vision of what we want and where we need to go in the future, extensive public consultation, research and analysis was undertaken to develop this Recommended Urban Structure. Over the summer and fall of 2009, staff and consultants will be testing the Recommended Urban Structure with analyses related to growth management, transportation, servicing, infrastructure and phasing. Based on the Recommended Urban Structure, Town staff will also bring forward a series of Recommendation Reports on major policy directions, including more details on land uses, intensity of development, appropriate locations for mixed use and affordable housing, and environmental policies. The Town's current plan is more than 25 years old and since then has experienced significant growth, now reaching a mature state of development. In order to deal with these changing circumstances effectively, the Town needs a new Official Plan. More information on the Town’s new Official Plan, including the full Recommended Urban Structure, can be found on the Town’s Website at www.richmondhill.ca/officialplan. For more information, contact Paul Freeman, Manager of Policy, at (905) 771-2472 (from Committee of the Whole Meeting held on Monday, July 6, 2009; Staff Report SRPD.09.036, Agenda Item No. 14). 
 
Observatory Telescope To Open Again for Viewings
Committee of the Whole received a presentation from members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Toronto Centre, Paul and Karen Mortfield, regarding the telescope at the David Dunlap Observatory. The Mortfields informed Council that RASC has been contracted by Corsica (Metrus) Developments, the owners of the David Dunlap Observatory property, to provide educational and outreach programs at the observatory for the community. They also explained that RASC undertook recent important restoration (cleaning and repainting) work on the property including painting of the floors, emphasizing that no structural work or changes had been done. Ms. Mortfield also shared a letter from Professor Roberto Abraham, Associate Chair in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, who highlighted the special qualifications of RASC members in terms of their ability to efficiently and safely operate the 74 inch telescope, one of the largest in the world. Mr. Mortfield went on to explain 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy and that RASC will reopen the observatory to the community for public viewing nights where parents and children can get their first look through the giant telescope starting on July 18. The viewing events are expected to continue on Saturday evenings into September. For more information on these events, RASC invited everyone to visit their Website at www.theddo.ca. Mr. Mortfield also noted that RASC and the Town have joined together to host a special event at the property on August 14 as part of the Count Me In challenge and the community is encouraged to attend. Details for that event can be found on the Town's Website at www.richmondhill.ca/countmein. For more information, contact Donna McLarty, Town Clerk, at (905) 771-2529 (from Committee of the Whole Meeting held on Monday, July 6, 2009; Presentation, Agenda Item No. 7.9).

Increased Traffic Safety Around Three Richmond Hill Schools
In response to requests from concerned residents and school administrators, Council approved new stopping restrictions near Moraine Hills Public School, St. Marguerite D’Youville Catholic School and MacLeods Landing Public School. In order to address student safety and traffic congestion in the vicinity of Moraine Hills and St. Marguerite D’Youville, stopping will now be prohibited between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday (July and August are exempt) on portions of Rollinghill Road and Richvalley Crescent. Stopping restrictions near MacLeods Landing will occur during the same time periods and have been approved for portions of Silver Maple Road, Shirrick Drive and Lake Forest Drive surrounding the school property. After on-site observations by Town staff, it was confirmed that pick-up and drop-off activities occur along both sides of the streets nearest the three schools, leaving students to cross the road unsupervised while passing between parked vehicles into oncoming traffic. As well, with vehicles parked on both sides of the above noted streets, school buses, through traffic and York Region Transit buses are often delayed through the school zone. The new limitations will reduce delays for commuters and school and transit buses while discouraging the unsafe dropping off and picking up of students on the far side of the street. For more information, contact Rob Cowie, Traffic Analyst, at (905) 771-8800, ext. 3583 (from Committee of the Whole Meeting held on Monday, July 6, 2009; Staff Reports SREPW.09.037 & 057, Agenda Item Nos. 23 & 26). 
 
Richmond Hill Surpasses Waste Diversion Goal
Waste Management staff presented Council with a report stating that the Town’s waste diversion rate for 2008 was 66.5 per cent, surpassing the Town’s target of 65 per cent. Staff also provided Council with updates on the Town’s waste management programs: GoingGREEN, the Town’s Green Bin organic waste collection, and Blue Box, recyclable waste collection. Staff reported that Richmond Hill residents have embraced the GoingGREEN program since it’s inception in April 2007 by placing more material out for diversion than is being sent to landfill. Still, while extremely popular, the Green Bin program has been plagued by processing issues related to the quantity of material and the inclusion of non-compostable plastics such as bags and diapers. York Region will be conducting a pilot project on the possibility of using only compostable bags and completely banning plastic bags. However, the Town feels that the Green Bin program is a success due to its convenience and a complete ban of plastic bags could hamper collection success. Instead, Town staff suggest a greater awareness and voluntary use of compostable bags by residents will help eliminate the contamination by plastics. The Town will be introducing organics collection to multi-residential buildings shortly as well. The Blue Box program has been very successful at diverting waste. However, the issue of wind-blown litter due to overflowing Blue Boxes continues to be a problem despite the increase in size of new Blue Boxes. Staff have requested the Region to allow excess recyclables to be placed into transparent plastic bags to help prevent this. For more information, contact Jeff Meggitt, Manager of Waste Management, Fleet & Traffic Operations, at (905) 771-4433 (from Committee of the Whole Meeting held on Monday, July 6, 2009; Staff Report SREPW.09.067, Agenda Item No. 28).

Town Water Promotion “On Tap”
In an effort to promote the Town's safe, healthy drinking water and to protect the natural environment, Council approved an initiative to minimize bottled water use at Town facilities and events. The Town provides potable water to residents, businesses and visitors that is first drawn from Lake Ontario, and then continually sampled and tested at many points throughout the treatment, storage, transmission and distribution process. Town tap water consistently meets high standards of quality, with far fewer environmental implications than bottled water. As well, there is no conclusive proof that bottled water is safer than tap water. In fact, Ontario’s drinking water legislation for municipal drinking water systems is among the strictest in the world. To help encourage the consumption of tap water, the Town will increase the availability and awareness of municipal water as a safe, healthy, economical and sustainable choice at all Town facilities and future events. For more information, contact Myles O’Brien, QMS Program Coordinator, at (905) 780-2920 (from Committee of the Whole Meeting held on Monday, July 6, 2009; Staff Report SREPW.09.063, Agenda Item No. 30).
 
Crosby Park Receives Award of Excellence
The Town’s commitment to inclusivity and accessible recreation was recently recognized by Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO) with the 2009 Award of Excellence for Crosby Park, the Town’s first fully accessible park. This award honours individuals or organizations from the PRO Special Interest Areas that have demonstrated new and innovative activities, programs, unique facility design, community development or other initiatives that foster co-operative approaches for the further advancement of sport, recreation or leisure. The newly redesigned Crosby Park (located at Crosby Avenue and Newkirk Road) reopened in June 2008 and quickly became a destination for people of all ages and abilities. What makes Crosby Park truly unique is the attention to detail – the little things so often taken for granted. An elevated sandbox, for example, allows those in wheelchairs the opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasure of building castles in the sand; and special drum tables enable everyone, particularly the visually impaired, the chance simulate a variety of sounds and discover the musician inside them. The gently sloping ramps of the fully accessible playground structure enable children of all ages and abilities to access all levels of the play area. The redevelopment of the park was such a one-of-a-kind project, that the Town took a unique approach, which would allow residents to embrace the project and be involved in the development of something special in their community. The response was overwhelming. The community came out in full force, rain or shine, to Family Fun Day events held in 2006 and 2007. As well, several corporate events garnered support from the business community. To date, the fundraising effort, which was spearheaded through a partnership between the Town and the Richmond Hill Mobility Accessibility Foundation, has far exceeded the $336,000 target. For more information, contact James Condron, Landscape Design Architect, at (905) 771-2486 or visit www.richmondhill.ca/crosbypark (from Council Meeting held on Monday, July 13, 2009; Presentation, Agenda Item 7.1).

*Photos of the presentation are available upon request. They can be viewed in the Photo Gallery.

Council Supports Development of a Code of Conduct
Council unanimously approved the creation of a subcommittee to draft and recommend an official Code of Conduct for Council of the Town of Richmond Hill. The Town of Richmond Hill is in full compliance with all legislated accountability and transparency requirements and has already passed a number of policies such as Respect in the Workplace, Hiring of Relatives, Municipal Business Conference Training and Tuition and expense policies. It is Council's wish to ensure it clearly communicates to the community its commitment as it relates to their conduct. Many municipalities across Ontario are also developing Codes of Conduct. The subcommittee will be comprised of no less than three Members of Council and chaired by the Mayor. Staff from the Office of the CAO and the Office of the Clerk will support the Council subcommittee as it drafts the Code of Conduct, which is expected to be presented to Council sometime in the fall. For more information, contact Mayor Dave Barrow at (905) 771-2493 (from Council Meeting held on Monday, July 13, 2009; Motion, Agenda Item 11).
 
Parking Fines To Benefit Disabled
The Richmond Hill Mobility Accessibility Foundation (RH Mobility) will continue to benefit from those who illegally park in disabled parking spaces. Council approved a $44,500 grant allocated from the Disabled Parking Fines Reserve to assist the RH Mobility in funding mobility initiatives throughout the Town, specifically: contracting a program assistant, developing a grant program for local improvements to businesses that are not accessible to the disabled, the purchase of assistive devices like wheelchairs or walkers through the Ontario March of Dimes program, and an Ed Sackfield gym membership subsidy for disabled individuals. The Disabled Parking Reserve was created by Council in 2004, with funds first being distributed to the RH Mobility in 2005. RH Mobility is a registered Canadian charity whose mandate is to fund equipment to assist with daily living for those individuals who reside within the Town of Richmond Hill, as well as initiate programs encouraging small businesses to be more accessible in creating a barrier-free community. For more information, contact David Dexter, Director of Finance/Treasurer, at (905) 771-2484 (from Committee of the Whole Meeting held on Monday, July 6, 2009; Staff Report SRCFS.09.038, Agenda Item No. 34).

Town Committee Presented With Road Safety Award
Council and members of the Town’s Road Watch Committee were formally recognized by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) for their dedication and commitment to community safety with the 2008 Road Safety Achievement Award in the “Volunteer” category. The Road Safety Achievement Awards were established by the Ministry of Transportation to recognize the exceptional achievements and commitment to excellence of individuals, community groups and organizations in promoting road safety at the community level. The Town of Richmond Hill Road Watch Committee was recognized for their volunteer efforts in getting the message of the Road Watch Program out to the residents of Richmond Hill through their active participation at key community events in 2008. Road Watch Committee Chair, Naim Malik, first accepted the award from the Honorable Jim Bradley, Minister of Transportation, on behalf of the Committee at a ceremony on June 4 at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Downtown Toronto. Road Watch is a community-based initiative with members appointed by Council and supported by Town staff and York Regional Police. Road Watch involves awareness and education and is intended to reduce the number of fatal collisions due to dangerous or aggressive driving. The program encourages public support and participation through the use of online reporting or Citizen Report Forms, which give residents the opportunity to identify dangerous and aggressive drivers and report them to the police. Mayor Dave Barrow noted that, “because of the tireless efforts of these dedicated volunteers, 371 Road Watch Reports were received in 2008, resulting in 322 motorists being cautioned by police for their poor driving behaviour. Clearly, it’s making a difference.” For more information about the Road Watch Program, visit www.richmondhill.ca/roadwatch or contact George Chau, Traffic Engineer, at (905) 747-6361 (from Council Meeting held on Monday, July 13, 2009; Presentation, Agenda Item 7.2).

*Photos of the presentation are available upon request. They can be viewed in the Photo Gallery.

Business Park Bridge Construction To Begin Over Highway 404
Council directed staff to proceed with the detailed design and tender preparation of the Highway 404 mid block crossing between Highway 7 and 16th Avenue. The bridge crossing will help alleviate traffic congestion on both sides of Highway 404 and expand the Town’s economic opportunities by maintaining a road network between two vital business areas. The connecting roads will include on-street bike lanes and sidewalks and align with East Pearce in Richmond Hill on the west side and Centurian Drive in Markham on the east side. This crossing conforms to the Town’s new Strategic Plan by providing stronger connections and better choices to move around and for doing business. Construction of the crossing is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2010. As part of the overall road network, Markham will be extending the Highway 404 northbound off ramp to intersect with this new mid block crossing. This extension will further alleviate the traffic congestion on Hwy 7. For more information, contact Marcel Lanteigne, Manager of Transportation, Traffic & Site Plans, at (905) 771-2456 (from Committee of the Whole Meeting held on Monday, July 6, 2009; Staff Report SREPW.09.062, Agenda Item No. 27).




Council will now break for summer recess from July 14, 2009 and resume in September. The next Committee of the Whole Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 4:30 p.m. and the next Council meeting is Monday, September 14, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. Both of these meetings will be held in Council Chambers.


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